Local airports to benefit from grant money

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Two local airports will benefit from grants to improve Mississippi’s airports announced earlier this month by U.S. Sens. Thad Cochran and Roger Wicker.

More than $11 million has been released by the U.S. Department of Transportation to fund airports across the state through the Transportation, Treasury and Housing and Urban Development Bill, according to a press release from Cochran’s office on April 8.

The Poplarville-Pearl River County Municipal Airport will receive $197,362 for extension of the runway and expansion of the apron, according to the release.

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Poplarville Airport Manager Ron Savoie said new T-hangars are being built by private firms at the airport, and some of the grant money will be used to extend the taxiway to the new hangars.

“We’re also going to continue building fencing, and relocate the beacon as well… Construction on all this should start in late 2008 or early 2009,” Savoie said.

Savoie says the airport does not have a large number of people that it serves, but that many people use the airport to fly in and fuel up.

“Our fuel is on a self-service system. We usually service smaller planes, private jets, and about four or five times a year, we serve commercial crop dusters,” Savoie said.

As far as the runway goes, Savoie says the runway is currently 4,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. Savoie says the runway can be extended as much as another 1,000 feet, but is not sure it will be done right away.

“It may be in the plans. We’ve thought about it before, but haven’t done it yet,” Savoie said.

The Stennis International Airport will receive $263,266 for the improvement of airport drainage, according to the release.

Stennis Airport Maintenance Manager Clarence Piazza said the drainage improvements are needed at the end of the runways towards Interstate 10, where the airport consistently has problems with beavers and beaver dams.

“It’s a weekly thing, having to clean out these beaver dams. … We’ll be opening the drainage so it will drain under the interstate and into Bayou LeCroix. … There’s not a lot of flooding right now, but we still need to get this land dried out,” Piazza said.

Piazza said once drainage is improved, the airport hopes to extend its runway to the south end.

“Our runway is currently 8,500 feet, and we want to extend it to 10,000 feet,” Piazza said. “An extended runway would help us in dealing with larger planes with full loads, by providing more room for lift.”

Stennis International Airport currently serves charter and private flights, as well as military and personal aircrafts.

“Our airports are critical to our state’s ability to support and attract both small rural businesses and large industry,” said Cochran in the release. “We must continue to build and maintain our aviation infrastructure to compete in today’s global economy. I am pleased that the federal government continues to recognize the need for assistance in Mississippi.”     

“Local airports are an asset to both large and rural communities in Mississippi,” Wicker said in the release. “This federal funding will help strengthen these airports and their community’s economic development efforts by increasing safety and efficiency through improved airport infrastructure.”